Once again Kashmir is in the headlines. The killing of over 50 protestors, the blinding of youngsters and arrests en masse have occurred. The usually volatile Indian media has been silent except for those who occupy television networks howling and barking in a comical way about ISIS or Daesh, Taliban and ISI!
They parrot the same mumbo-jumbo and some tweets in fact have asked for more killings of these teenagers who are protesting gang rapes, extrajudicial killings and disappearances, which are facts that have been attested to by even the National Human Rights Commission of India. The media is pandering to state propaganda and clouding the real situation in the region. Few journalists have taken it upon themselves to write about the situation. In her NDTV program, Barkha Dutt focused on the issue. It was indeed heartwarming to watch an intelligent debate on the current situation.
Others like Arundhati Roy have also written about the Kashmiris who want to live in peace and dignity – free from army men groping and molesting their women, free from waking up in the morning and hearing that a family member has either been killed or has disappeared as was the case of an aspiring young cricketer who was killed in Hanwara by the army.
Accounts by ordinary people about tortured confessions are increasing. Bilal Dar said he was tortured and forced into giving false statements incriminating others. With a large section of the media operating hand in glove with the security agencies, the fabrication of news has been taken to a high level. The use of lethal weapons and indiscriminate force described as self-defense has also reached alarming proportions.
However, the communal nature of present-day Indian politics is stoking the flames. Kashmir is not about religion. Sheikh Abdullah years ago said: “It is not necessary that our state should become an appendage of either India or Pakistan.” Present-day Kashmiris also believe that. I have not met one Kashmiri here or anywhere in the world who has said that we want to go with Pakistan!
In fact, a Kashmiri doctor in London told me it is like “jumping from the frying pan into the fire.” And this India should realize. RSS, Shiv Sena and other organizations, wannabe politicians and fame-seeking media people should note that inflaming the nation will bring tragic results.
Across the border, rabble-rousers, like Hafiz Saeed, who claim that they stoke rebellion should be arrested. Vote-seeking, power-hungry Pakistani politicians should be gagged. Do not use the Kashmiri people’s quest for justice as a vehicle to reach your dream office!
Both countries are in dire economic straits. India should instead focus on so-called economic smart cities that are flooded with toxic waste, stop the rising number of farmers committing suicide, fight corruption and waste and respect human life. Across the border, the same problems occur, beginning with load shedding, kidnapping and corruption. Killers roam the streets of Karachi gunning down people at will and holding the entire city hostage.
Both countries should resolve these issues rather than go to war over a people who distrust them equally. The struggle for the equality and dignity of the Kashmiri people is a just one. They never talk of recession. They want an end to subjugation and killings. They want economic equality. A 40 percent unemployment rate is not a palatable figure!
Kashmir is often described as the “Switzerland of the East” and its people want it to be that way. They want to, for once, wake up and breathe the free and fresh air and smell the fragrance of the beautiful flowers and blossoms of trees without hearing the sound of army boots and gunfire.
And that is not asking for too much.